Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has a bold idea for the next-generation Starship spacecraft: fast reusability. Launch it. Bring the rocket booster back. Refurb it. Launch another Starship as soon as possible. A launch and catch tower is one of the components of that vision.
Musk tweeted a panoramic video of the tower on Sunday, with the caption “Starship launch & catch tower.” The 31-second video shows us around the structure, which includes an arm designed to catch a returning Falcon Heavy rocket after it’s finished escorting a Starship off this planet.
The tower is being built at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas at the same time as the company is attempting to launch a Starship prototype into orbit for the first time. SpaceX is developing starship as a multifunctional vehicle that might transport humans to the moon and Mars and between destinations on Earth.
Musk, known for his grandiose goals, hopes to put the gleaming spaceship into orbit early this year and undertake up to a dozen test flights in 2022.
SpaceX is still waiting for the FAA to get a launch authorization for an orbital Starship to launch from Texas. So, before we see the tower try to grab a rocket launch, many things have to happen with that test flight and other improvements.
The robotic catcher has been dubbed “Mechazilla” by Musk. The tower is also intended to help with launch operations. NASAspaceflight.com’s Chris Bergin has followed the tower’s testing and released videos of its exercises.
The launch tower may face some difficult moments when and if it sees action, as starship prototype launches have seen both successes and explosions. “Success isn’t assured, but excitement is!” Musk tweeted last year.